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Westlake Governance Appointed to Conduct Independent Review of the GNSO

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN") has appointed Westlake Governance Limited ("Westlake Governance") to conduct an independent review of the Generic Names Supporting Organization ("GNSO"). This review is part of ICANN's commitment to continuous improvement, accountability and transparency.

The GNSO serves an important function – it is responsible for developing and recommending to the ICANN Board substantive policies relating to generic top-level domains.

The purpose of the review is to evaluate organizational effectiveness of the GNSO, acknowledge areas that are working well, identify areas that need improvement and propose needed changes. This review, like reviews of other structures within ICANN, is mandated by ICANN's Bylaws.

The GNSO Review addresses the new, improved approach to conducting reviews. The GNSO will be a protagonist in this inclusive process: in keeping with ICANN's bottom-up, multistakeholder approach, this review process will incorporate a "self-review" by the GNSO community and its direct involvement. An online survey will collect feedback from other ICANN structures and community members, the Board and staff. Westlake will collect both quantitative and qualitative data through various work methods to develop a sufficient basis for formulating findings and recommendations. The review will begin immediately and is expected to conclude in January 2015.

The selection of an independent examiner is done in accordance with the process defined in SIC Systematization of Organizational Reviews Processes [PDF, 671 KB] and involves Organizational Review staff and the Structural Improvements Committee of the Board ("SIC"). Seven proposals were carefully evaluated and the evaluation results and scores were presented for consideration and action by the ICANN Board Structural Improvements Committee. The selection criteria included: Knowledge and Expertise (including knowledge of ICANN), Qualifications of the Professional Team Assigned (including ability to act independently, without conflict of interest); Proposed Methodology; Ability to Deliver High Quality, Useful Report and Recommendations; and Costs.

Westlake Governance is a globally-focused, New Zealand-based consulting firm, serving clients from a wide cross-section of not-for-profit, commercial and government-owned sectors. The firm has performed reviews of ICANN's At-Large Advisory Committee ("ALAC") and the Root Server System Advisory Committee ("RSSAC").

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Domain Name System
Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as""icann.org"" is not an IDN."